Behind The Leaf: Scented Teas

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We’ve been enjoying a particular type of tea these days. A tea that melts the snow and warms our hearts. These special teas are scented teas. Have you tried Jasmine tea before? If so, you’ve had a scented tea. These are teas that have flowers added to the pure leaves, and are allowed to absorb the heavenly floral aroma. These steeped teas impart a gorgeous floral aroma to the air while they brew. Scented teas are only flowers and tea- not any other added flavors. It can take a few weeks to scent tea naturally with layers of flowers. It is a delicate process that takes patience. They are a bit harder to find but worth the hunt.

 Scented teas are not all created equal. It’s not easy to find just the right balance of flowers to tea. You don’t want to overpower the tea, just enhance it. Finding that balance takes a tea master. Scented green teas are most common but you can also find scented black and oolong teas. A few of our favorites are:

Jasmine: it’s easy to find Jasmine tea, but finding a tea scented just with jasmine blossoms is a bit more challenging. Make sure you’re not getting a tea scented with added aromas or oils. Jasmine tea was invented in China during the Song dynasty. Quite a long time ago.

 Rose- if you love roses as much as we do, why not try it as a tea? The soft, soothing rose flavor is immensely pleasing. Perfect for a quiet afternoon with a few French macarons on the side. Quite a sophisticated cup!

 Chrysanthemum- this delicately sweet tea is subtle and delicious. The flavor is reminiscent of honey and also has a mild herbaceous note. This tea is supposed to have quite a few medicinal benefits as well, but we like to drink it just for the taste and for how relaxed we feel afterwards. This is a tea you can typically find at Chinese restaurants, along with Jasmine tea.

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I love floral teas all year round and especially love them in the wintertime. That gentle floral flavor brings the hope of spring, even on the coldest, most blustery day.

 Other scented teas will contain flowers such as chamomile, and hibiscus. These can also be found as herbal blends, and not necessarily scented teas. But the possibilities are endless, and finding new and interesting scented teas is such fun!

 You should brew your scented teas just like you would the pure tea it comes with (ex: the temperature for green tea, if your base is green). We love using small glass teapots for scented teas, as you can see the beautiful flower petals dancing along with the leaves. It makes for a much more enjoyable experience. Watching those vibrant petals just brings the warm spring sunshine indoors.

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Behind The Leaf: Silver Needles White Tea

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Dearies we’ve talked about white tea before. This is such a delicate, delicious, beautiful tea. I know we’ve mentioned that there are two main types of white tea, White Peony (Bai Mu Dan) and Silver Needles (Bai Hao Yin Zhen). Silver Needles is the more delicate tea with more fuzzy white buds. I thought it would be fun to focus a little bit more on this tea, since it’s so special.

Silver Needles is grown in the Fujian province of China. It is more costly than other white teas because only the young fuzzy buds are picked. The tea plant used is called Da  Bai, which means ‘large white’. Makes sense, right?

I like to drink Silver Needles in the wintertime, mostly because it’s quite soothing. Everything from the sweet and hay-like aroma to the fuzzy tactile experience of the dry leaves is pure comfort. This tea is comprised only of young, tender fuzzy tea buds. The buds are picked early in the spring, and still have that downy fuzz attached. This is what gives the tea the silvery appearance.

This tea is plucked, then withered and dried. There is a slight oxidation process happening since it’s not steamed immediately like green tea. This is why the leaves are silvery and not a more grassy appearance.

The taste of silver needles is going to be subtle, soothing, smooth and sweet. Notes of honey and slight vegetal notes can also be present. The hay-like aroma of the dry leaves can also be found in the brew.

This is quite a delightful tea that could be enjoyed in the morning or early afternoon. Kat prefers it in the late morning, as she likes a tea that’s a bit bolder first thing. But don’t be fooled by that mellow taste Dearies- there is still a good amount of caffeine in white tea.

To prepare this tea, make sure the water is below boiling. You don’t want to scald the delicate leaves, so using water around 167°F is appropriate. Steeped for about 5 minutes, your cup will be a light golden color, with a beautiful sheen to it if it’s fresh. You can steep this up in a small teapot or a gaiwan.

Dearies, I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about Bai Hao Yin Zhen! Please feel free to ask me if you have any questions.

Books About Tea

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Dearies it’s been so cold lately, all Kat wants to do is stay home, curl up and read a good book. Can you blame her? I certainly can’t. I always make sure to add a nice warm cup of tea to accompany her reading. The other day I noticed just how many tea books she has on her shelf! It made me wonder, do all of your lovely readers have favorite tea books too? If you are interested in starting a tea book collection, here are a few that Kat and I recommend:

The Art and Craft of Tea by Joseph Wesley Uhl: This is one of Kat’s newest favorites. The book has bold graphics, and gorgeous photos. It gives information on tea from all around the world and even has wonderful tea-centric recipes to make at home. This book has great information on tea growing, processing, and drinking all around the world.

The Ultimate Tea Lover’s Treasury by James Norwood Pratt. Mr. Norwood Pratt is one of the most interesting and important living tea experts. This book combines beautiful prose, tea history, tea facts, and tea drinking culture from around the world. It’s a lovely book to pick up and read something new and interesting each time you open it.

Tea: History, Terroir, Varieties by Kevin Gascoyne, Francois Marchand, Jasmin Desharnais, and Hugo Americi- This has been Kat’s trusty tea handbook for years. This book has detailed explanations about all the tea growing regions. Learn all about how tea is cultivated, and processed. It gets into detail on the importance of terroir- the climate, soil, and unique characteristics of each tea growing region- and how this changes the taste of the tea. This is a perfect book for the tea lover that wants to deepen their knowledge.

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There are also books that specialize in types of tea. For example if you’d like to learn more about Puer, you should try Puer Tea: Ancient Caravans and Urban Chic by Jinghong Zhang. Puer is a very different variety of tea, and this book will take you through how it’s processed, where it is grown, and give you lots of interesting historical facts. A must for anyone that wants to learn more about puer!

For something tea related but a fun fiction read, you can try the Tea Shop Mystery series by Laura Childs. This mystery series centers around a charming tea shop in Charleston, South Carolina and the vivacious owner.

Enjoy your book and tea reading, Dearies! It’s the perfect time of year to cozy up

Functional Teas

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Dearies, lately Kat and her friends have been talking about functional teas. Now, being a teacup I’m not always up to date on the latest popular trends. But I try to keep my ears open and listen to what the younger folk are doing. Curious about functional teas, I took to the laptop and did a bit of research. It turns out these are teas with herbs for added benefit to the body. I’ve been learning quite a bit about these teas!

There are functional tea blends for just about anything you need. Feeling under the weather? Try a tea with Echinacea, vitamin C, and lemon. Having trouble with digestion? Try a tea with licorice root and magnolia bark. Ginger is great for many things, particularly for digestion. I’ve actually written about ginger before, I just love it for everything. It’s relaxing, delicious, and good for the tummy. Check out a previous post to get you started!

Kat has been drinking quite a bit of lavender tea lately. This functional tea is great if you need to relax. It smells divine, like sitting in a lush French field dotted with beautiful purple lavender. She originally started drinking lavender because it helped her relax and relieve stress. She has recently learned it’s also good for promoting sleep and helps to uplift your mood! She adds a touch of honey to her lavender tea for an extra dose of soothing goodness. Kat also drinks Chamomile, which is also known for helping with sleep and relaxation. After a particularly stressful day both of these herbs have been super helpful. She’ll even mix both teas together for a delicious way to unwind.

Kat has started using this organic detox green tea from Full Circle Organic. A friend recommended it when Kat said she wanted to take some time to cleanse her body after eating a bit too much around the holidays. It’s hard to get back on track after such indulgent festivities, isn’t it? Being more mindful of her nutrition, exercise, and a little help from this tea, she’s feeling much more like herself. This tea contains organic green tea, dandelion root, and schizandra berries, all things that are supposed to help cleanse the body. Why not get a little extra help in jumpstarting the process? This tea is the perfect way. This tea can be found in various grocery stores such as Tops, Coborns, Price Chopper, HyVee, Big Y and more.

Dearies don’t forget that I’m a teacup, not a doctor. So please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions about these teas. Have you tried any functional teas? I’d love to learn about what you’ve had, and your experience with them.

 

 

DIY Matcha Hand Cream

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It’s been so cold and dry lately, Kat has been complaining about her skin being dry and itchy. I thought it would be fun to create a lotion that she could easily whip up, something that would soothe her dry skin and contain one of her most favorite teas.

Dearies I found many confusing cream recipes online that involved quite a few hard to find ingredients. I’ve created a recipe that’s a little bit easier to handle and creates a very effective cream!

You’ll need a few ingredients for this cream, but they can easily be found online. Here’s what you need:

Tippy’s Soothing Matcha Hand Cream

1 tbps Matcha Powder

½ cup Coconut Oil

½ cup Shea Butter

Essential oil (we like jasmine, mint, lavender, or almond).

Note: Make sure you sift the matcha well-you don’t want clumps in your hand cream!

The first thing you need to do is melt the coconut oil. We do this on the stove, using a double boiler. Don’t have one? Just boil a cup of water in a small pan and then nestle a heat-proof bowl over the pan (make sure it’s the right size to be supported by the sides of the pan). This will gently melt your coconut oil. Once it’s melted, whisk in the matcha powder until it’s completely combined. Then add the shea butter and mix until everything is melted and well combined. Once combined, remove from the heat and add about 10 drops of essential oil. Allow to cool until you can handle the bowl. Put it in the fridge and allow to fully cool. The mixture will become quite solid at this point. Once it’s cool, put it in a stand mixer, and mix until it becomes light and fluffy. Once it’s at a texture you like, you can scoop it into individual airtight containers. We like to use little jars with screw-top lids.

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If you’re feeling productive you can whip up a large batch and put into decorate jars for friends. It’s such a thoughtful wintertime gift. Dearies I hope you enjoy this recipe! It’s the perfect way to keep your skin glowing all winter long!

 

Echinacea tea

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Kat has been on an herbal kick lately. She’s been learning about all herbs, and how they can possibly be helpful to a healthy lifestyle. There is so much to learn that she’s taking things slowly. This week she’s been focusing on echinacea. Neither of us knew much about this herb at all, except that we’ve heard it’s supposed to be good when you have a cold. We’re found out a little bit more, and I’m happy to share my knowledge with you!

Echinacea is a plant in the daisy family that has pretty purple flowers. You’ve probably seen it growing wild, or have at least seen pictures of it and didn’t even know it. The petals are long and thin and remind me of purple daisies. In my research I discovered that the name comes from the Greek word ekhinos, which means hedgehog! Isn’t that cute? Actually, if you look closely at the center of the flower, it does look a little bit like a hedgehog. I admit, this makes me giggle a little bit. But it turns out this is an herb with some serious power!

Echinacea is thought to have a bunch of healthy uses. It can help boost the immune system, which is perfect for cold and flu season. It is also supposedly helpful in fighting a cold you already caught, and soothes throat and chest illnesses. It has been known to help with inflammation and fighting bacteria. So many possibilities! Dearies, I also learned that if you are allergic to certain flowers, you should check with your healthcare provider before trying echinacea (as well as other herbal teas such as chamomile). You could be allergic to it so please be careful.

Our favorite way to consume echinacea is through tea, of course. Echinacea tea can be easily found in health food stores and supermarkets. Make sure you read the package carefully as other ingredients can be added as well. You want to make sure you are getting exactly what you are expecting. It’s easy to prepare, you can use boiling water and steep for as long as you like. Herbals are very forgiving, they are hard to oversteep! Feel free to add a sweetener of your choice. Kat likes to put in a drop of honey.

Don’t forget, Dearies- I’m not a medical professional! This post is my humble suggestion and info I’ve learned about echinacea. If you are interested, consider giving it a try! If you learn more important herbal information I’d love to hear about it.

Winter Herbal Iced Teas

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Dearies, I know winter is starting to tighten its icy grip on us and we’ll be covered in snow before we know it! This is usually a time to reach for warming, comforting teas, but I’m a clever little cup and I like to switch things up. Kat gets ever so tired in the chilly, dark months, and I’m always thinking up ways to perk her up. One fun way to chase the winter blues is to mix up a batch of iced tea! I’ve discussed winter iced teas before, but this year I’m putting an herbal spin on things.

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Herbal teas are easy to either cold brew, or steep up and ice. Since they aren’t made from tea leaves, they won’t get bitter if you over-steep them. If you really want to feel like you are on the beach, how about a citrusy iced tea? Mint is another refreshing option. You can get very creative, combining herbs for interesting flavor combinations. I love chamomile and lemon, or adding mint to hibiscus. You can even experiment with wintry rosemary, I love adding honey and lemon after steeping rosemary in hot water for 5 minutes. It smells like the holidays! Basil is another hearty herb that is delicious steeped up with lemon and honey.

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When we are looking for a cup of iced tea quickly, Kat likes to ice down one of her favorite bagged teas, HEB Hibiscus Ginger Orange tea. This tea is perfect to keep around for this time of year! Served warm it is a comforting treat with spicy ginger, and tangy hibiscus and orange. Kat likes to drink it warm on chilly days while she curls up by the fire with a few friends. Iced it is a refreshing drink for any time of day. Kat has used this tea to recharge after a long day of holiday shopping. When iced, the ginger wakes up the palate, and the citrus flavors refresh and revive. This is quite a versatile tea! This tea can be found at your local HEB grocery.

This winter when you’re sick of the cold and grey weather, steep up an herbal iced tea and transport yourself to a warm and sunny climate. Be sure to visit my pinterest page for more herbal iced tea ideas!

Tippy’s Tea of the Month: Longjing

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Dearies I know we’ve talked about Green Teas quite a bit, but there is one in particular that is a Chinese staple with an interesting story, Longjing. This tea’s name translates to ‘dragon well’, and is grown only in China’s Zhejiang province. Why is this well-loved tea called Dragon Well? It all goes back to the legend! There are actually a few different versions of the legend, but in my favorite version, a Taoist monk discovered a dragon hiding in an old well. The season had been in drought, and once the villagers learned of the Monk’s discovery they prayed to this dragon to bring the rain and fill the well to capacity. After the prayers, it started to rain! This water flowed from the well and nourished the surrounding tea is grown.

 The tea itself has a flat needle-like shape with a lovely jade green color. This tea is pan-fired which gives it a nutty taste (it often reminds me of chestnuts) with a fresh vegetal aroma. It also has a cooked veggie flavor which we often associate with green beans. The tea is nutty, vegetal and sweet.

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 The quality of longjing depends on when it was harvested. The earlier in the spring, the more expensive the tea will be. For the highest quality, one leaf and one bud is picked. These young leaves and buds create a very gentle, fresh and tender flavor for the tea.

The highest grade leaves are pan fried in small batches in a wok. They  needed to be heated as soon as possible to prevent oxidation. The pan-firing technique creates the lovely nutty flavor you taste in the tea. The leaves are pressed to the sides of the wok to make sure they are properly dried. This also creates the flat needle-like shape of the finished leaves. If your tea leaves have an even color to them, you know they were dried very well, to make sure the heat was even for the whole batch. Lower grades of longjing are also pan heated but usually in large revolving drums. The teas that are machine roasted are still quite delicious and more affordable.

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As with many coveted teas, longjing can be ‘faked’. You may not be getting spring harvested tea, or tea grown in Zhejiang. The best way to tell is use your eyes and mouth. Does it look like a vibrant green tea? Does it smell and taste like early spring? Veggies and chestnut? It is smooth and gentle or is it bitter? If you taste enough good quality longjing you will know what to look for. As always dearies, it’s about tasting, tasting, tasting!

To brew your longjing you can use a gaiwan, or a small teapot. My favorite way is to just add the leaves right in the water using either a bowl style cup or tall glass. Just keep filling up your vessel with hot water as you finish it, re-steeping those beautiful leaves. This is the way it’s commonly consumed in China.  Dearies no matter how you steep it, it’s a beautiful tea. If you try it you’ll understand why it’s so revered in China. Happy Steeping!

Black Teas to get you through Black Friday!

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Oh goodness Dearies, I barely see Kat these days! She’s already busy running about getting her holiday prep started. Between Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas coming up, she has endless to-do lists. I see her briefly in the morning and then we sometimes meet for a late-night relaxation sip. Watching her breeze around the house for a few days, I decided to come up with a list of black teas to give her a bit of pep to get through the holiday crazy. Especially that Black Friday shopping! She’s planning on getting up very early (even before this tea cup likes to be awake!) and going all day long. Here are a few of our favorite black teas I’m lining up to keep her awake and ready to go!

 Irish Breakfast- I can’t think of a better way to start the day! This is a super strong blend of black teas, perfect to wake you right up. This tea has a hearty dose of Assam which is malty and bold. It’s a bit stronger in flavor than English Breakfast but they’ll both do the trick. Sometimes they are blended with Kenyan, Ceylon, and Chinese black teas as well. Each blend tastes a bit different so you should try as many brands as you can to see what you like best!

 Keemun- this is a Chinese tea that’s great for the morning or early afternoon. It can be a little earthy, little bit sweet, with a hint of smoke. Very uplifting and energizing!

 Darjeeling- perhaps it’s getting a bit later in the day and you want something to get you through but not give you a big boost. A delicate 1st flush Darjeeling is floral yet earthy, a nice balance of more subtle flavors. It will restore your energy and the flavor will also give you focus and calm.

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Kat has found a new favorite to keep her shopping energy up. I mentioned Tea India teas in our Diwali celebration post, and Kat now keeps the Orange Pekoe tea on hand for moments when she needs a pick-me-up. It’s a bold Assam tea, perfect for mornings or early afternoon. She’s even made it iced a few times, an carries it around in a tumbler. Quite a versatile tea! Earthy, bold and bright, it holds up well both hot and iced.

 These Black Friday teas are of course great for any occasion. I’d stick with them in the morning or early afternoon if you are sensitive to their pep effects. Do you have a favorite black tea to wake you up and keep you going?

Matcha Donuts!

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Dearies, as you know matcha is everywhere these days. You can enjoy it straight up, as a latte, or in a myriad of foods. Kat has brought home everything from matcha cream puffs, to matcha green-tea noodles. We’ve been putting it in our bath products, and you may remember I created a matcha face mask that’s perfect for an at-home spa night. It seems that everywhere you turn you’ll find a new use for matcha!

 Kat recently brought home a surprising matcha-product. A matcha donut! This donut in particular was quite special. A chocolate cake donut with a luscious matcha glaze. What a way to enjoy our favorite tea!

 It seems like many donut shops are jumping on the matcha bandwagon. Kat said some of her friends around the country have found matcha donuts too! This is definitely a trend that I can happily support. More matcha for everyone. Our local shop keeps this donut feeling special. They only make them on Saturdays! This causes the lines to be a bit long on Saturday mornings, but well worth the wait. If you have a donut shop or two in your town, ask if they make any with matcha! If you can find one, you’ll be glad you did.

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I was thinking that it would be such fun to matcha donuts from scratch, but Kat said she doesn’t have time for something so labor intensive. But what about a quick matcha glaze to add to your store bought donuts? Make a matcha glaze with three simple ingredients: powdered sugar, matcha, and water! A quick search can come up with lots of recipes, but I do like this one best. You can put it on your donuts, cakes, well just about anything!!

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So, what tea to pair with your matcha donut? I’d suggest a refreshing green tea. In fact, we’ve been pairing out donuts with Private Selection Citrus Green. I’ve paired this tea with sweets before as it’s a lovely combination of delicately vegetal green tea and tangy orange. The green tea compliments the matcha, and the orange cuts through the heavy donut and even accentuates the chocolate notes in the confection. Kat keeps this tea on hand to drink all year round. It’s thirst quenching in the summer, and a relaxing warm cup for early afternoon sips in the chillier weather. This tea is definitely one of our staples!

 Dearies, tasting this chocolate matcha donut has given me new found inspiration for matcha and chocolate recipes! Stay tuned as I’m going to start brainstorming and recipe testing! Kat always loves being my official taste tester. If you’ve come across any matcha donut varieties, do feel free to share them with me! Oh, the possibilities!